The DeadZone

Chapter Two

The knife I threw whizzed through the air and seamlessly buried itself into the squirrels skull. It twitched for a mere second before dropping from the low-hanging branch and onto the grass. The shot was perfect considering I had been standing a good foot away, but as they say practice makes perfect.

With care, I picked it up by its skinny little tail. The tail, however, wasn the skinniest part of the little creature but it was all the food around for the time being, and started making my way back my so-called base. Which was set up by a quiet creek. Consisting of a small, simple fold-up tent, with a small fire pit and thick rope hanging from a tree. The rope was used to hang anything I caught to skin and gut it more effectively.

As useful as the place was for now, I knew Id be having to move soon. No place was safe to dwell in for too long especially now a days, even in an area surrounded by trees. At least in clearings, I could see what was coming. My eyes drifted to the darkening sky, tomorrow Id move out but tonight Id enjoy my skinny squirrel.

A chuckle escaped my lips as I strung up the little creature and I hummed a little tune while I pulled the knife from its skull and used the same sharp point to cut a shallow slit from the base of its neck to above its bladder.

Its insides splattered across the grass and I worked at cutting the edible chunks off the bone. With fresh animals unless you have to add a lot of salt, and use sunlight to thoroughly dry out the meat,then you needed to cook it before the meat went bad – that could happen in mere minutes.

With night quickly approaching, I started the fire before placing the chunks onto a few forks then stuck the handle into the ground so the flames could lick at the meat. As they cooked, the smell overpowered my nose and I contemplated eating them almost raw – I was near starving. However, I couldn afford to get sick off whatever the squirrel could be carrying.

So, I busied myself with cleaning up my base and shoving anything I needed to take with me into my travel bag. It wasn much – two bottles full of (previously boiled creek water), a metal flask also full of the boiled water, a sweater, an extra pair of panties and socks, a pair of shorts, two more thin sharp knives, a bottle of vodka, a lighter, a small towel, bar of soap and a few bandages. That left enough room for my small tent to be folded up and shoved in there as well as my piece of rope – which I paced as I wouldn need it until the next location.

Other than what was in my bag, I dressed in a pair of loose, thick leggings, black boots, a black tank top, then my loaded Glock which I kept in a holster around my waist with the knife (that I used for the squirrel), a watch strapped to my wrist and a razor blade I kept tucked into my sock.

Finally, the chunks were done as the sun disappeared in the sky and was replaced by the moon and I covered the fire with dirt before shoving the chunks into my mouth as quickly as I could while drool dripped down my chin and of course trying not to choke on them as well forgetting how gamey they can be.

Once the meat was eaten, and my stomach was less empty than previously; I climbed into the tent zipping it up tightly and closing my eyes. The only times I could have the fire going were dusk and dawn, any other times the brightness at night or the smoke during the day would lure them straight to me and Id end up dead. If I slept as soon as the fire was out, Id still be warm during my sleep.

Sleep these days was never easy.

*****

Dark green eyes. Much like my own, except these ones came with a graying beard and warm smile. Dad always smiled at me no matter what. Now, he smiled at me as he handed over his only gun.

”There should never be a situation where you need to ever fire a gun but if you do, fire and run. Don stick around to see where the bullet lands, ” he spoke softly as my little fingers gripped the gun tightly as if it could disappear at any second.

”What if theres too many to run? ” I asked, afraid.

He smiled sadly at me.

”Then make sure you have one bullet left for yourself, ” he swallowed then passed me the rest of the half-empty can of peas, ”eat up Lilith. We have a long journey tomorrow. ”

Something cold and wet hit the side of my face jolting me awake. I peeled my eyes open slowly, rising out of my dreaming state, and slowly looked around then my eyes locked on my watch. I frowned, concerned. The tent was darker than it should be. Another splash – on my forehead this time and my eyes rolled up to the top of the tent. A hole was collecting water and dropping them down. A crackle in the distance sent dreadful shivers down my spine. It was raining out – no, storming!

Fuck. This wasn good. I had to move. The rain and clouds made me even more vulnerable and due to the rain now I couldn take my tent. It would only soak the inside of my bag and add extra weight I probably couldn carry.

I shoved my tent open and crawled outside – the rain was heavy but not yet pouring. That was a good sign, I had time to move and try to find some shelter. I was taught to avoid buildings – buildings meant population at one point which meant now there would surely be Bitters there. But it would be safer than out in the rain where I couldn see, nor hear anything.

Another wave of thunder in the distance and my bag was starting to get heavy with the rain. I started running through the trees – jumping clear over uprooted plants and roots and ducking under low branches. Rain was hitting me square in the face and with my wet clothing, I was starting to get cold and now tired. In the distance, I spotted a patch of dark gray ground and a break in the trees.

Knowing it would be a road, I slowed my running to a brisk walk and gulped in air, desperately trying to catch my breath and to hold back the shivering from the cold. Thinking back, it was stupid to run. With this close to a road, I had to be careful of Bitters now more than ever.

I moved slowly, doing my best not to shiver to badly. Once I got to the line of trees I ducked down into a crouch and moved forward. The road seemed empty and promising, so I kept to the side and got out of my crouch relaxing more but still keeping my guard up.

By the time the road led me to a small cottage home, I was completely soaked and exhausted. I had been walking for over an hour now, and the rain had turned into a heavy, brutal storm, just my luck too it seems. I didn ever want to enter an unknown building but I had to get out of the rain. Maybe the home even had some canned food but I doubted it, you would be very very lucky now a days to find anything in abandoned homes.

The windows were cracked – a few broken, but the front door seemed to be in working order. My fingers pushed the door open slowly, wincing at the creaking sound that now seemed louder than the storm. The house was a complete mess dirt and dust covered everything, the air was thick with a foul smell, furniture was destroyed, the carpet was ripped into pieces, glass littered the floor and papers covered the floor now stained brown.

I moved deeper into the house, my knife in hand and my eyes skimming the place immensely. Overall, the place was empty – it was a small home: only one floor with a tiny bathroom, kitchen, Living room and bedroom. Luckily, it seemed like the windows in the bedroom were only cracked and not broken. The bed holding only a stained mattress and the bones of some sort of animal, the dresser was empty but searching the closet seemed more promising.

I found a heavy comforter set which seemed to be in decent shape enough (which I happily pulled out to the living room), and a few scraps of large mens shirts. I pulled the comforter set with me as made my way back to the living room – shutting the bedroom door tightly behind me.

Next, I went to the kitchen which seemed to be the source of the smell. I avoided the fridge, nothing in my life would make me open that thing,nothing ever good could come out of opening a fridge. So I scavenged the cupboards. I found two cans of beans, an old bottle of wine and a pack of beef jerky. After finishing my scavenge, I stripped my wet clothing, hanging them against a wooden table that was split in half, slipped on a pair of new panties, my shorts and my sweater.

After piling broken furniture in front of the broken window and locking the front door, I laid the comforter in the middle of the floor and sat down. Using my knife to crack the beans open, I devoured the food by dipping the strips of jerky into the beans deciding it was much better than squirrel. As I ate, I could hear the storm starting to calm down outside, and with a few gulps of the overly sweet wine I was already drifting off.

The next time I woke it was dark out. My legs held a dull throb but nothing serious. I had pushed myself to run for too long yesterday, a stupid and desperate move to get out of the rain and I had been entirely lucky to find that road and this cottage home. Outside however, a noise gathered my attention quickly.

The sound of a low, distorted groaning – right outside the window. It was too dark to see much, but I moved forward through the room, gently hauling my bag with me. A Bitter was here, and I knew right away I wouldn be able to fight it in the dark. Instead, I closed the bathroom door behind me and locked it. A small window only a few inches wide, and a few inches tall sat just above the toilet laminating the small bathroom in soft, blue moon light.

I surveyed the room – the toilet was missing its seat and held no water, the sink was in half the other half lay on the floor, along with shards of a long, broken mirror and a dirty, but otherwise intact pink curtain hiding the bath. I pulled it away slowly, before disgust bubbled up inside me.

A bath of bones. Surely there had to be at least two sets of one large and one medium set along with a shattered picture, and a long rusted butcher knife beside the tub told me the story. A couple smiling brightly into the camera -a Tall man and medium built beautiful woman, they even had a family dog it seems.

No doubt, as soon as they lost hope, they gathered in the tub and called it quits using the only thing they had on hand a kitchen — knife. I had wondered how long it took them to give up a few months, or a few years? Looking at the clean, ivory bones I couldn be sure except they were dead for a while.

But that was common for many families and couples to do so, especially after the end ten years ago. At least it was clear they hadn been infected or, a starving Bitter would have greeted me and not a pile of bones. I was thankful for small miracles.

Unable to sleep now due to the Bitter outside and the pile of bones merely a few feet away, sat on the floor – my back against the door and looked down at the shards – carefully picking one up.

My features shocked me it had been a few months since I had focused on my reflection so clearly – even in the dark. Locks of dirty, Red- brown hair hung just above my shoulders – much different than the buzz cut I had last, I was more tanned now too with a dirty face. – My eyes locked on themselves and thats the biggest thing I didn recognize: gone was the bright and hopeful eyes I once had. Now, my Brown almost Black eyes seemed almost as dead as those Bitters. With guilt and sadness churning in my stomach, I averted my gaze to the window.

Watching as dark clouds moved night by and into dawn.

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